County Superior Court (P2/08-3287A) William E. Carnes, Jr.,
State: Christopher R. Bush Department of Attorney General
Defendant: Lara E. Montecalvo, Office of the Public Defender
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Gilbert V. Indeglia, Associate Justice
defendant, Elton G. Edwards (defendant or Edwards), appeals a
five-count criminal conviction obtained after a jury-waived
trial. This matter came before the Supreme Court on September
28, 2016, pursuant to an order directing the parties to
appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be
summarily decided. After considering the arguments set forth
in the parties' memoranda and at oral argument, we are
convinced that cause has not been shown. Thus, further
argument or briefing is not required to decide this matter.
For the reasons outlined below, the Superior Court's
judgment is affirmed.
Facts and Travel
appeal arises from a traffic stop on the evening of August
22, 2008. Two Providence police officers, Lt. (then Sgt.)
Richard Fernandes and Officer John Reposa,  who were in the same police cruiser,
stopped defendant at the intersection of Harold and Valley
Streets in Providence. Beyond the stop itself, the parties
present largely diverging factual scenarios. As a result of
the incident, on October 31, 2008, the state filed a
five-count criminal information against defendant, charging
him with felony assault on a police officer (count 1); simple
assault on a police officer (count 2); resisting arrest
(count 3); driving under the influence of alcohol (count 4);
and obstructing a police officer (count 5). The defendant
waived his jury-trial right. After a two-day bench trial,
Edwards was convicted on all counts.
trial, Lt. Fernandes testified that, at approximately 7:30
p.m. on August 22, 2008, while driving east on Valley Street
in his police cruiser, he observed defendant's vehicle in
the opposite lane traveling west. He also testified that
defendant passed at least one other car and crossed the
street's double yellow line, nearly striking the police
cruiser. Lieutenant Fernandes turned around, activated his
emergency lights and sirens, and stopped the vehicle.
Lieutenant Fernandes exited the police cruiser and approached
the driver's side of defendant's vehicle.
Simultaneously, Officer Reposa approached the passenger's
side. The defendant occupied the driver's seat; his
girlfriend, Ms. Danika Rollins, sat in the front passenger
seat; and Danika Rollins's aunt, Ms. Carol Rollins,
occupied a back seat.
at the driver's side, Lt. Fernandes requested
defendant's license, registration, and proof of
insurance. Lieutenant Fernandes testified that an
"extremely agitated" defendant responded,
"F**k you. What are you stopping me for?" Further,
he testified that Edwards told him to go f**k himself when he
again asked for documentation. According to Lt. Fernandes,
defendant slammed his arms against the vehicle's
dashboard. He suspected Edwards was intoxicated as he smelled
alcohol on his breath, observed bloodshot, watery eyes, and
empty beer bottles throughout the vehicle. Despite
Edwards's behavior, Lt. Fernandes recalled remaining
calm, asking Edwards to exit his vehicle.
Lieutenant Fernandes stated that, although he could not
recall whether he or Edwards opened the door, defendant
removed his seat belt. According to Lt. Fernandes, upon
exiting the vehicle, defendant instantly lunged at him. When
Officer Reposa came around the car to assist Lt. Fernandes,
defendant bit Officer Reposa's left middle finger. The
officers struggled to bring defendant to the ground,
attempting to secure him on his stomach and in handcuffs.
Defying handcuffs, defendant hit his head on the pavement.
The defendant and Officer Reposa exchanged punches, and Lt.
Fernandes recalled defendant biting Officer Reposa's face
underneath his left eye. The defendant resisted Officer
Reposa's verbal commands to lie on his stomach.
the officers pinned defendant down on his stomach, and both
officers held him down. While Officer Reposa attempted to
handcuff Edwards, defendant again bit him, this time on his
forearm. The defendant continued to resist handcuffs,
prompting Lt. Fernandes to spray Edwards in the face with
"one short [pepper spray] blast." He further
recalled that Officer Reposa retrieved his collapsible baton
and struck Edwards's head several times. By this point,
Danika and Carol exited the vehicle. Carol tried to pull both
officers away from defendant. Danika yelled, but did not
Fernandes further testified that he eventually took Edwards
into custody and placed him in the police cruiser until
rescue arrived for hospital transport. The officers also
arrested Carol. The rescue then transported defendant to
Roger Williams Hospital, where Officer Reposa was also
treated. Lieutenant Fernandes testified that he left the
scene, reported to the police station, and contacted a
certified Breathalyzer operator. At the police station, Lt.
Fernandes completed his statement and, per protocol, filled
out a use-of-force form. During trial, Lt. Fernandes
testified to Officer Reposa's injuries, confirming a
scrape on his elbow, and bite marks below his left eye, on
his middle finger, and on his forearm. Lieutenant Fernandes
also noted that defendant bled from both his mouth and head.
the state called Officer Michael Troia, a Providence Police
Traffic Bureau officer trained in DUI enforcement. Officer
Troia testified that at around 7:45 p.m. Lt. Fernandes called
him to respond to Roger Williams Hospital because the police
suspected that Edwards was intoxicated. Upon his arrival,
Officer Troia noted that defendant displayed bloodshot,
watery eyes, and he smelled of alcohol. The emergency-room
nurse drew two blood vials from defendant. From the hospital,
he met with a Bureau of Criminal Identification detective at
the police station who secured the blood in a refrigerator.
The following Monday, Officer Troia transported the blood to
the Department of Health forensic lab. About two weeks later,
Officer Troia received the blood test results, which he
mailed to defendant's address.
state then called Ms. Jennifer Finch, the Principal Forensic
Scientist in the Department of Health's Toxicology
Laboratory. Ms. Finch testified that she conducted
Edwards's blood tests, which revealed an ethanol presence
and a blood alcohol level of ninety-seven milligrams per